[Hat tip Moshe]
Rama Burshtein’s new film, “Fill the Void,” takes place in a setting that will be unfamiliar to most viewers: the confined world of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel. In this sphere, gender roles are strictly defined and every aspect of life, from the spiritual to the mundane, is governed by a complex array of laws and customs designed to emphasize the perceived needs of the community over individual desires.
Marriages are arranged. Social interaction between men and women is limited and regulated. Fathers are the authority figures in families, and the rabbi is the authority figure in the community. And yet, under Ms. Burshtein’s direction, “Fill the Void,” which opens on May 24, is a love story in which an 18-year-old girl is largely able to determine her destiny.
That such a film, Ms. Burshtein’s first feature, was made by a female Orthodox director is evidence of the growing maturity of Israeli cinema.
“Not for a moment is she trying to be someone else,” Isaac Zablocki, director of the Israel Film Center at the JCC Manhattan, an Upper West Side community center, said of Ms. Burshtein. “It’s a sign that Israeli culture is coming into its own. Filmmakers like Rama Burshtein are confident enough to tell a story from within and know it will have an audience. For Israelis to understand their own experiences — this is a revolution in Israeli cinema.”
Ms. Burshtein, who is 45, hardly comes across as a revolutionary; on the contrary, at least by outward appearance, she could easily pass as a character in her own film. Following the custom among married women in devoutly religious Jewish communities, she covers her hair, a coiled scarf framing her round face and concealing every strand. She wears long sleeves, and with her soft voice and frequent small smiles, her manner is a study in modesty.
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